You selected your small group of 4[great choice!], vacation destination agreed upon; hotel and all critical tourist sites plugged into your GPSs; plane and hotel reservations complete.
Now wait for the date? Not quite. There are a few items think about.
How to pack.
On your body:
You need to keep your passport and other picture IDs on you at all times. Keep your cash in two pockets- mugging money in one pocket $20-30 local equivalent. In a separate pocket, have a plastic bag with copies of your passport and picture IDs. Might not be a bad idea to have a prepaid debit card stashed away just in case.
An all-in-one oversized wallet or ID carrier seems tempting, think about this: if you lose that one item, you lose you all your items. This is no different than any military operation, split your gear up! This is why 5.11 [ http://www.511tactical.com/511-tactical-pants-mens-cotton.html ] and military pants have so many pocket.
You might want to tone down the ‘tactical’ look so you do not look fearsome.
In your travel backpack:
Carry a copy of your passport, picture IDs and credit cards– in case you get separated from your IDs this is a starting point to get a new passport [http://www.usembassy.gov/ ]. Small flash light[LED, AA size] with new batteries; the US is not the only country with power failures. Your digital life style: camera, GPS, Kindle, laptop or tablet. Hand sanitizer- if you cannot drink the local water, can you really wash your hands with it? Small packet of Kleenex or toilet paper- you never want to get ‘stranded on the bowl without a roll’. Extra socks and undies, unexpected layovers happen or your check baggage ‘gets lost’.
Small first-aid kit, nothing too complicated. Prescription medications carried in original containers, this is no time to save space by combining your meds and end up in jail. When carrying the pack on the stairs or escalator, carry it on your chest versus your back: if you do not have eyes on, someone might be razor cutting the bottom and taking your GPS or digital camera.
In your checked bag:
This bag will not be on your person so do not place anything in it you cannot live without, is very expensive or an irreplaceable family heirloom, such as your great-grandfather’s English badger hair shaving brush.
Doubt me? Really, you doubt me? Google “airport baggage handling” and see; here are two samples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWq74Ne3L10 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU6F12S6q48 . Questionable baggage handling is why you should consider a ‘hard’ luggage bag [http://www.ebags.com/department/luggage ] with wheels versus a ‘soft’ bag. Enough clothes, climate appropriate for the vacation climate and length.
Avoid over packing, you will never use all you bring. Travel size hygiene kit- no need for large bottles of bath wash and shampoo, toilet paper- that water can near the toilet is not for the room’s plants, and of course additional copy of your passport, picture IDs and credit cards.
Before takeoff, you might not want to post your travel plans on Facebook or Twitter. Bad guys keep an eye on stuff like that and the last thing you want is ACME Movers to show up and clean you out. Your neighbor’s kid might like to have a party at your place, unless you fully trust the neighbors and their family or think the neighbor’s kid will clean your house, you might keep that close to the vest as well.
Letting the Post Office know to hold you mail is a good idea, no need to have it pile up or your LL Bean package get stolen. No one has daily newspaper delivery anymore [do daily papers even exist?], not a worry.
As Americans, where ever we go, we are looked at as ‘the rich Americans’. Maybe not so much in Germany, Switzerland or Japan, nearly everywhere else we are perceived as walking cash registers. The State Department country assessments lets you know what to worry about: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html .
For example, Italy is safe from armed robbery [some exceptions] but pick-pocketing is the second national sport behind soccer. The lesser developed the country, the greater the use of violence increases. Sadly, the local police will be sympathetic [maybe- depending on their kick-back], but unable to help you. TIP: You should maintain constant situational awareness, travel in pairs and avoid drawing attention [think- loud behavior or wearing ‘These colors don’t run’ t-shirts]. Try not to get drunk in public becoming an easy target. Sounds like common sense, we all know how uncommon that is.
Unless assaulted, giving up your ‘mugging money’ and camera might be a better option than fighting against an unknown number of assailants [yeah, you think the guy on the corner reading a newspaper or smoking a cigarette is not a lookout?], on their turf with questionable police loyalty, and the possibility of getting severely injured or killed. For some alpha males holding back might be a challenge, remember, ‘play the long game’, and returning home in one piece is the long game.
Getting to the airport:
The eco-friendly choice is; as much as eco-friendly is possible; public transportation from your location to the airport. Of course; carrying all your travel gear as a group with several changeovers could be a challenge and not worth the environmental savings. Driving in as a group [that is why four is the magic number] is somewhat cost effective, but then you have to pay for parking, hope your car is not vandalized or will start when the battery dies. Depending on a good hearted friend or relative to drive you and the group both ways is a major tasking I would not risk. The main question is: how dependable are they to pick you up upon your return? If the dependability meter is not a 9.5 or 10, there is another more reliable mode.
I suggest to go in style with a limo or car service[Uber/Lyft]. They do the airport run all the time; know the traffic patterns and best routes to get you there. You are not paying for transportation, you are paying for convenience. You can prepay the service with credit card, be sure to tip in cash- who does not like being tipped in cash?
So until we meet again, safe travels!